Respecting Those That Have Come Before
by Elijah Shaw
“This guy thinks he was born fully grown.” That’s a saying I sometimes use which confuses the hell out of people when they hear it. Allow me to explain:
To me it describes a person that thinks they know everything, particularly the ones that give the impression that this knowledge somehow came right out of the sky and was beamed directly into their brains. They suffer from a rare and unexplainable phenomenon termed IIC or “Immaculate Information Conception”.
To these individuals they didn’t have to learn something that was taught to them by someone that at some point had greater skill or knowledge about a topic. Instead they manifested the techniques and owe a debt to no-one. Or to put it bluntly, they’re full of it.
I’ve said it before in previous columns, our industry is populated by the “Alpha Male” mindset (even in women) and while I also believe it is a valuable trait that allows us to rise above the pack and assume the role of protector, let’s be realistic, there are very few cases of reinventing the wheel. Instead we as pros learn from one another, and more importantly, learned from someone prior, information or skills that allowed us to obtain the title of “professional”. The interesting quality I observe is that particularly in the Close Protection Industry, we tend to devalue what has come before, much less pay respect to it.
Don’t get me wrong, like a traditional family the son should be expected and encouraged to grow up, move away and start his own clan. From a biological level that is how we diversify and continue the species. Yet in our industry we not only move out of dad’s house, in some cases we deny we ever even had a father. IIC Syndrome claims another victim.
I think part of the problem lies in that there is a perceived vulnerability that lies in the fact that someone had to “teach” us something. As if the implication may be that it also might mean there is something we don’t know, and could therefore fail at. Industry speaking, I think we could also attribute it to the fact that many of our teachers may also still be in some way shape or form still associated with the protection business and therefore might actually be competition.
It’s different to pay respect to your kung fu sensei if he lives in a monastery or passed away many years ago. It’s another story if you open up a martial arts school across town and may have to compete for the same new students. Acknowledging the psychology and/or the economics is one thing, but that mindset is likely to do us more harm than good in the long run.
There is a value to strengthening ties to the past and calling upon the people who have not only knowledge but also the wisdom that comes from experience. Even if that person no longer has any interaction with what you do, it’s just plain good karma to respect those that have achieved a high level of proficiency in a craft. It’s one of the reasons we call a person “Doctor” even if they are not operating on us.
I can remember several years ago having my first phone call with Tony Scotti, of Tony Scotti’s Vehicle Dynamic’s Institute, an individual who prior to that I knew by reputation only. As I’m chatting with him at my desk, I look to my left and on my shelf I see a book entitled Executive Safety & International Terrorism, written by Anthony J. Scotti. I remember distinctly interrupting him mid-sentence and thanking him for what he’d done for the industry as a whole and specifically for helping me in my growth process. That particular book was one of the 1st I purchased when I decided to get involved with the Executive Protection Industry. Subsequently Tony and I have developed a friendship, but one that I’d describe as a mentorship because his experiences and outlook are invaluable to me.
As a side note to this, in 2011 I had my first chance to officially take one of Tony’s courses and I approached it not with the attitude of “I’ve been doing Close Protection Work for 18 years, and am also an instructor, I could teach this” but rather, here’s an individual (and a program) that has existed for quite some time and has produced quality results, let me keep my mouth shut and learn. Additionally when I pass on things that I have learned from the program (which we all inevitably do) I try and remember to give credit where it is due.
There’s no mistaking that Immaculate Information Conception affects most of us at one time or another, but I think with self awareness we can all do our part to stop it from becoming an epidemic.
Originally printed in The Circuit – The Magazine for the Executive Protection Professional. Buy it HERE.